Listed places

10 Exceptional First World War memorials

1. Liverpool Cenotaph

Architect Lionel Budden, unveiled 1930. Grade I listed

Liverpool Cenotaph, EH Archives aa030688

Designed by local architect Lionel Budden, the altar-like Liverpool Cenotaph is adorned with some of local sculptor Herbert Tyson-Smith’s most powerful work. The craftsmanship of these bronze reliefs is outstanding, with powerful and modern designs forming a poignant reminder of the effects of the war on Liverpool.

2. Royal Navy War Memorial, Portsmouth

Designer Sir Robert Lorimer, Sculptor Henry Poole, unveiled 1924. Grade II listed

The memorial commemorates 25,000 British and Commonwealth sailors, around 10,000 in the First World War and 15,000 in the Second World War, who died at sea and had no known grave. On an Admiralty recommendation, three identical memorials were erected after the Second World War at the main naval ports in Great Britain: Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth. After the Second World War architect Sir Edward Maufe, with sculpture by Charles Wheeler, William McMillan and Esmond Burton.

3. Southampton Cenotaph

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, unveiled 1920. Upgraded to Grade I listed November 2015
© ststeve (Flickr)

Lutyens’ design for the Southampton Cenotaph became the basis for the design of the Cenotaph in Whitehall.

4. Edith Cavell Memorial, St Martin’s Place, London

Sculptor Sir George Frampton, unveiled 1920. Grade I listed

Edith Cavell Memorial

Nurse Edith Cavell was executed in 1915  in Brussels by the Germans for harbouring and assisting allied soldiers. Inscribed on the sides of the monument are the words, HUMANITY, SACRIFICE, FORTITUDE and DEVOTION. Edith Cavell’s own words, PATRIOTISM IS NOT ENOUGH. I MUST HAVE NO HATRED OR BITTERNESS FOR ANYONE were added several years after the unveiling.

5. Oldham Memorial

Sculptor Albert Toft, unveiled 1923. Grade II listed
© Gavin Clarke

Unveiled in 1923, this exceptional sculpture of a group of soldiers was one of the largest bronze works made at the time. Unusually, the names of the fallen are recorded in a book, whose pages are turned mechanically, and displayed behind glass within the memorial.

6. Royal Artillery Memorial, Hyde Park Corner, London

Sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger, unveiled 25 October 1925. Grade I listed


Widely regarded as one of the truly outstanding memorials of the First World War anywhere, the Royal Artillery Memorial commemorates the 49,076 members of the Royal Artillery who lost their lives in the conflict. The reliefs around the base depict different forms of artillery warfare, from trench mortars and anti-aircraft guns to heavy batteries. Around it stand heroic bronze figures of different ranks of gunners: a lieutenant, a shell-carrier and a driver. A great coat-draped corpse lies at the north end.

The newly cleaned Royal Artillery Memorial, Liverpool Cenotaph, and the Edith Cavell Memorial were recently upgraded to Grade I, among just 2.5% of listed buildings.

7. Waggoners War Memorial, Sledmere

Sculptor Carlo Magnoni of London, unveiled 1920. Grade I listed
Image by
© Nick Garrod

This unique memorial was designed by local landowner and MP for Hull, Mark Sykes, who served in the First World War. Its story-like carvings commemorate the lives of 1000 wagon drivers (Waggoners), recruited and trained by Sykes in the nearby fields, to supply the trenches on the Western Front.

8. Croydon War Memorial

Designer James Burford, sculptor P. R. Montford. Unveiled 1921. Grade II listed
Croydon War Memorial
© Jim Linwood

A tribute to the men and women of  Croydon who died in the war, there is a sculpture of a woman cradling a young child and reaching out longingly to a sculpture of a man tending to his own wounds.

9. Macclesfield War Memorial, Cheshire

Sculptor John Millard, unveiled 1921. Grade II listed
© Craig Thomber

Following the First World War, memorials were normally designed to depict either heroic triumphalism or detached contemplation, and avoided evoking the horrors of war. The Macclesfield memorial is an exception to the general rule as it depicts the gruesome death of a soldier who has died from gassing, his hand clutching a gas mask which he has not had time to place over his face. Britannia is leaning over the soldier, about to place a laurel wreath on his head.

10. The Cenotaph, Whitehall

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, unveiled 11 November 1920. Grade I listed

Cenotaph and traffic

For the first time in history, millions of combatants disappeared in the explosive reality of modern static warfare. Those dead who could be found were laid to rest in ‘some corner of a foreign field’. The grief over the absent dead was profound. In July 1919, a temporary structure was designed by Edwin Lutyens as a fictive national tomb, where parading soldiers could pay their last respects to the dead. The Cenotaph so caught the public and political imagination that it was rebuilt in stone in 1920, and was described by The Times as ‘simple, massive, unadorned’.

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6 comments on “10 Exceptional First World War memorials

  1. Check out the memorial at Port Sunlight on the Wirral Peninsula and also Clitheroe’s memorial in Lancashire – they are also amazing.

  2. Please have a look at my blog to see our new WW1 memorial.

  3. David Gilchrist

    see ‘Dover Marine War Memorial’ on Wikipedia: this too is magnificent.

  4. The memorial to the royal naval patrol service at the sparrows nest in Lowestoft

  5. The memorial to the merchant navy and fishing fleet opposite the Tower of London

  6. Alastair Disley

    The Portsmouth one has two twins at Plymouth and Chatham, all with similar but non-identical surrounds added after WWII. I consider Chatham the best situated as it is atop a hill with more space around than the others, although all three impress.

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